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Genetic Counselors

Assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. Provide information to other healthcare providers or to individuals and families concerned with the risk of inherited conditions. Advise individuals and families to support informed decisionmaking and coping methods for those at risk. May help conduct research related to genetic conditions or genetic counseling.

Source: O*Net Online


What do Genetic Counselors do?

  • Analyze genetic information to identify patients or families at risk for specific disorders or syndromes.
  • Assess patients' psychological or emotional needs such as those relating to stress, fear of test results, financial issues, and marital conflicts to make referral recommendations or assist patients in managing test outcomes.
  • Collect for or share with research projects patient data related to specific genetic disorders or syndromes.
  • Design and conduct genetics training programs for physicians, graduate students, other health professions or the general community.
  • Determine or coordinate treatment plans by requesting laboratory services, reviewing genetics or counseling literature, and considering histories or diagnostic data.
  • Discuss testing options and the associated risks, benefits and limitations with patients and families to assist them in making informed decisions.
  • Engage in research activities related to the field of medical genetics or genetic counseling.
  • Evaluate or make recommendations for standards of care or clinical operations, ensuring compliance with applicable regulations, ethics, legislation, or policies.
  • Explain diagnostic procedures such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS), ultrasound, fetal blood sampling, and amniocentesis.
  • Identify funding sources and write grant proposals for eligible programs or services.
  • Interpret laboratory results and communicate findings to patients or physicians.
  • Interview patients or review medical records to obtain comprehensive patient or family medical histories, and document findings.
  • Prepare or provide genetics-related educational materials to patients or medical personnel.
  • Provide counseling to patient and family members by providing information, education, or reassurance.
  • Provide genetic counseling in specified areas of clinical genetics such as obstetrics, pediatrics, oncology and neurology.
  • Provide patients with information about the inheritance of conditions such as breast, ovarian, prostate and colon cancer; cardiovascular disease; Alzheimer's disease; and diabetes.
  • Read current literature, talk with colleagues, or participate in professional organizations or conferences to keep abreast of developments in genetics.
  • Refer patients to specialists or community resources.
  • Write detailed consultation reports to provide information on complex genetic concepts to patients or referring physicians.

Source: Career OneStop


Work conditions

Genetic counselors in clinical settings work in a medical office building or outpatient area of a hospital. They will often be meeting face-to-face with their patients. The job is not physically demanding, but may involve travel to satellite offices to provide counseling. The emotional nature of some situations can be demanding. Full-time genetic counselors typically work approximately 40 hours per week, though there are many genetic counselors working part time.

Source: NIH LifeWorks


Education requirements

Currently, 27 training programs offer master's degrees in genetic counseling in the United States. Coursework typically includes clinical genetics, population genetics, cytogenetics, and molecular genetics coupled with psychosocial theory, ethics and counseling techniques. Clinical placement in approved medical genetics centers is an integral part of the degree requirement. There are other programs that accept nurses seeking post-graduate degrees with specialty training in genetics. One program offers a PhD in human genetics with a focus in genetic counseling and others are planning similar programs.

Source: NIH LifeWorks


Licensing requirements

Certification is not currently required to be a practicing genetic counselor, however the majority of counselors practicing today are board certified. Licensure is becoming available in a growing number of states and is often dependent upon board certification.

Board certification to become a Certified Genetic Counselor (CGC) is available through the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC). Requirements include documentation of the following: a graduate degree in genetic counseling from an accredited program; clinical experience in an ABGC-approved training site or sites; a log book of 50 supervised cases; and successful completion of both the general and specialty certification examination.

Certification is valid for 10 years. Recertification after 10 years is made possible through reexamination or the collection of continuing education units (CEUs).

Source: NIH LifeWorks


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Stats for Genetic Counselors in Hawaii

Statewide

Total employment:

~ 440

Average annual openings, 2008-2018 (projected):

~ 20 per year

Median annual salary:

(no data)

Median hourly wage:

(no data)

In Honolulu / Oahu

Total employment:

(no data)

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In Hawaii County

Total employment:

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In Maui County

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In Kauai County

Total employment:

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State and county data sources:
hiwi.org (updated July 2012)
bls.gov (updated May 2011)